Why does adland need a new creative agency?

campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 31 May 2012 08:00AM

As they prepare the launch of their business, Joint, Damon Collins and Richard Exon reveal why they are starting up and what they hope to achieve.

Joint: Collins and Exon

Joint: Collins and Exon

Damon Collins says ...

There are very few business problems that can't be solved by a room full of creative people.

Of course, they need to be the right people.

And by creative people, I'm referring to people who are creative, not simply the inhabitants of the creative department.

They need to have a broad range of skills, from strategy to data to packaging design to social media to PR to SEO to mobile to production to project management to engineering to architecture to product design. (No-one said it was going to be a small room!)

And I'm including the client in there too. Whether they realise it or not, the guys with the problem hold the key to unlock it. Ah, but are they creative? Well, the fact is that anyone in marketing today who doesn't understand and appreciate creativity doesn't keep their job long.

Of course, they all need to be at the top of their game, but just being amazingly good at what they do and having creative DNA is nowhere near enough.

To get the best out of each other, they also need to be hard-wired to collaborate. Skill-hacking, joint ownership, face-to-face working in teams that include the client are the way great things get made. And with the often complex structures, both within a client's organisation and externally between their marketing agencies, the ability to work well in partnership with multiple stakeholders is increasingly valuable. (This kind of agile development process isn't unusual. Software developers have been working this way for decades.)

However, in order to do this, they need another quality, rare in traditional creative types: to be able to leave their ego outside the room. There is nothing more beautiful than humble genius, someone who gives without trying to score points. Equally, there is nothing more unappealing than an ego running riot among a group of otherwise like-minded collaborators.

But that's not all.

These creative people must be business-oriented. Focused on results. Not just in it for the awards but for what the awards (should) stand for: creative work that creates outstanding results.

They have to be obsessed with emerging technology. And understand how, with the release of each fresh platform, human behaviour is evolving alongside technology.

They have to be honest. With themselves: knowing their limitations and when to seek help. With each other: lies will decimate a business faster than any recession. With clients: the odour of bullshit can be smelled from miles away.

They have to be ambitious. Striving for greatness is our only hope of avoiding mediocrity.

They have to be tenacious. Creativity is a process. One that can take time to get results. The best solutions come from unfaltering devotion to the cause by those who get a kick out of not just lighting the blue touchpaper but seeing projects through to their sparkling end.

They have to be inquisitive. If we stop learning, we might as well give up.

They have to live like consumers. It's hard to make a TV ad unless you've ever watched the TV. It's impossible to create a social media campaign unless you immerse yourself in the social world.

They have to be courageous. Brave enough to ask awkward questions and admit when they don't know something. Brave enough to venture into the unknown, to feel the fear of going out of their comfort zone but embrace that feeling as something positive to learn from.

Finally, and most importantly, they have to be nice. Life's too short to work with gits. And there are enough brilliant people out there who are brilliantly nice.

There are very few businesses that are filled with people like this.

We hope ours will be one of them.

Richard Exon says ...

Starting a business represents an amazing opportunity. We get to take forward everything we love about advertising, communications and creativity and make it core to our offering.

Meanwhile, if something has been bugging us for years, some apparently inevitable consequence of how the industry has grown up over time, we can simply drop it.

Best of all, we are starting now. Today. Technologies, platforms and trends that were barely visible five years ago, two years ago or even last year are now part of everyday life.

And you can bet the next five years, ten years and beyond will see yet more change.

So the challenge for today's start-up is to build a company that has change hard-wired into it from birth. Whatever we think we need now, we'll need something different next year. The right way of doing something in 2012 could well be entirely wrong by 2013.

Exciting, isn't it?

Scary, too.

Because life's easier when everything seems fixed - fixed retainers, fixed costs, fixed assumptions. But we all know in our hearts that life is becoming more variable as each day goes by.

Whatever your inspiration - the disappearance of iconic brands such as Kodak and News of the World, political impossibilities such as a Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition becoming reality, or the role social media can play in overthrowing despots - let's agree we live in a variable age.

This is what makes starting up now so exciting. Not just because it's going to be fun, but because it feels like there has never been a better time to offer clients a credible alternative to the holding companies and the network offices that dominate the UK advertising market.

As Damon states, at Joint we believe that creativity is a process, not a product, and so we aren't intending simply to build a smaller version of the big agency factories.

Instead, we will start lean and stay lean.

If recent history in business the world over demonstrates one thing, it's that you don't need to be big to generate big ideas. You don't need to be big to work with big brands. You don't need to be big to compete with Big Advertising.

So we'll be structuring ourselves around a core of world-class strategic and creative experts, matched with an appetite for unrestrained collaboration and partnership, and the know-how to make those partnerships real.

Hence the complementary skillsets of the Joint founders.

The big question, though, is: what's in it for the clients?

There are two ways to answer this, and both concern the challenges that today's marketplace presents.

First, all our clients are under pressure to respond to rising customer expectations. Everybody wants products and services that are faster, better quality and more competitively priced. Clients live with this pressure every day.

They have had to overhaul their operating models, change their budgeting processes and think differently about every element of their business. Including their agency relationships.

More than anything, they increasingly want to distinguish between how they pay for what they value most - our strategic and creative expertise - and how they pay for production, delivery and implementation.

Second, our clients increasingly need partners and partnerships that can shape-shift quickly. Scale of operation and fixed methodologies are no longer the guarantees of success they once were. Big, fixed relationships risk in-built obsolescence as brands and business need to move quickly to keep up with today's networked, tech-enabled consumer.

At its heart, Joint is in large part a response to these challenges.

We'll offer lean, expert partnership. We'll be free to innovate about how we charge for our services. We'll have the appetite and opportunity to partner whichever individuals or companies best help us meet the clients' objectives. And we're going to enjoy doing it.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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